Watersheds and Watershed Policy

Water Supply Watersheds (WSWS) are comprised of a reservoir or proposed reservoir used for drinking water and surrounding land area that often act as a habitat for rare, endangered, or threatened species, a place for parks and recreation, and larger lots for homesites. To protect these valuable natural and life-sustaining assets, state and local governments apply additional development controls such as restricting certain polluting uses and limiting density.

Four water supply watersheds are either partially or entirely within Wake County:

  • Swift Creek (Lake Benson and Lake Wheeler)
  • Little River
  • Falls Lake
  • Jordan Lake

 

Falls Lake and Swift Creek are the primary sources of water for Raleigh, Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell, Zebulon. City of Raleigh Public Utilities is the lead agency providing service to these communities as well as being one of three service providers to the town of Fuquay Varina.  Johnston County and Harnett County also provide service to Fuquay Varina. Town of Cary Utilities Department uses B. Everett Jordan Lake to provide water and utility services to Cary, Apex, and Morrisville.

Below you can find more information about each watershed’s policies and management. To learn more about permitting wells and septic systems and erosion control measures in the watersheds, visit Environmental Services

Wake County Water Supply Watersheds

Swift Creek

Swift Creek is managed by several local governments. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wake County, Raleigh, Cary, Garner and Apex jointly developed (with the North Carolina Division of Water Quality) and adopted the Swift Creek Land Management Plan as a guide to managing development in the watersheds of Lake Wheeler and Lake Benson, so as to protect water quality in those existing or potential water supply reservoirs. The Wake County Board of Commissioners adopted the Swift Creek Land Management Plan.

Session Law 1998-192, adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly on October 22, 1998, prohibits Wake County (and other parties to the Plan) from adopting any development ordinance or granting any development permit that would be inconsistent with the standards and provisions of the Swift Creek Land Management Plan.

The goal of the plan is to balance the protection of water quality with the demand for urban development.

Little River

Wake County Planning, Development & Inspections Division and Environmental Services Department regulate all development within the Little River Future Water Supply Watershed.

In 2008, the Wake County Board of Commissioners and its municipal partners from the City of Raleigh and the Towns of Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon entered into the Little River Reservoir Water Supply Watershed Protection Interlocal Agreement (ILA). Adopting the ILA was one of the first steps taken to obtain the necessary permits for the proposed drinking water reservoir. The City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department continues to consider the Little River Reservoir a key source of drinking water for the future. The primary purpose of the ILA:

•To protect the water quality of the future reservoir
•To limit development in the watershed to mostly single-family homes.
•To limit non-residential uses to areas defined as "activity centers."

The ILA governing partners amended the 2008 interlocal agreement in 2016 to clarify what types of non-residential uses can be developed or expanded within the Little River Reservoir Watershed Boundary. In particular, the discussion focused on public parks, fire stations, police stations, places of worship, cell towers and solar farms located outside of activity centers.More information is available via the document links below.
Little River Interlocal Agreement
Little River 2016 Amendment
Little River Watershed Map

Falls Lake

Wake County Planning, Development & Inspections Division and Environmental Services Department regulate all development within the Falls Lake Water Supply Watershed. The Wake County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) describes development standards such as impervious surface limits, water supply watershed buffers and stormwater requirements.

Jordan Lake

The Towns of Cary, Apex, and Morrisville regulate all development in Jordan Lake within their respective jurisdictions. For development within the county’s jurisdiction, the Wake County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) applies development standards such as impervious surface limits, water supply watershed buffers and stormwater requirements